A man doing a baton routine on the National Competition gym floor
Ryan Yetts performs tricks in his baton routine in the 2019 National Competition. Photo courtesy of Ranee Yetts.

Ryan Yetts, born and raised in Omaha, who’s now a senior in broadcast and sports media majors at UNL, has a pretty typical college life. He’s busy with schoolwork, he goes to the recreational facility a few times a week to play intramural sports and he enjoys studying at the UNL Union. What nobody realizes about Yetts is that behind closed doors he’s a highly decorated, highly respected veteran baton twirler.

“I think that starting at a super young age was the key to my success,” Yetts said. “I was able to do tricks that my teammates couldn’t do at a pretty young age because all I did was practice.”

Yetts began baton twirling when he was 3 years old with his twin sister, Ranee, after his aunt had signed them both up on a whim. He’s had so much success in baton that many of his fellow teammates and competitors consider him the greatest to ever go through Sue’s Stepper-ettes studio, according to Ranee.

Some of his achievements include taking first place in the National Baton Twirling Association National Competition for 14 straight years from 2006 to 2019, placing sixth overall in the World Championship in Italy in 2012, placing eighth in the World Competition in France in 2018 and bringing 24 titles overall in individuals and to his team from 2006 to 2019.

He generally competes in solo two-baton routines, solo three-baton routines and team four-baton routines.

To some, baton twirling might just be what’s shown at halftime shows of football games, but for Yetts and his teammates, it’s so much more. The competitive side of baton includes stressful competitions, endless practice and extreme dedication.

The competitions involve a panel of judges who assess team and individual routines, using a scoresheet to rate difficulty, technique, presentation, variety and flow.

“I don’t really get nervous for the competitions anymore just because it’s almost like second nature to me, and when you do something for your whole life, you get used to how it works,” Yetts said.

Yetts is preparing to make his final showcase at the 2022 World Federation of National Baton Twirling World Championships in Eindhoven, Netherlands. After almost 19 years in competitive baton twirling, Yetts plans to retire from the sport after the 2022 World Championships this summer.

Yetts qualified for the World Competition after winning the NBTA National Competition in 2019, but because of the pandemic, the World Competition has been pushed back numerous times from the summer of 2019 to the fall of 2022.

He has qualified for World Competitions in team routines with his studio, Sue’s Stepper-ettes in Omaha and individually in the past. In the upcoming World Competition, he only qualified for his solo two-baton routine.

Sue Foehlinger, founder of Sue’s Stepper-ettes and longtime coach of Yetts, said Ryan can accomplish anything at this stage in his baton career.

“Ryan and the whole (Yetts) family have done so much for this team, and I know that every single time he walks onto that (gym) floor, he’s going to just kill it,” Foehlinger said.

Foehlinger was also confident that nobody is able to push Yetts except for himself.

“He takes his coaches’ advice and he rehearses his routines, but after being with him for so long I finally understood that when he wants something for himself, he will get it,” she said.

Ryan has devoted almost every year of his entire life to twirling batons competitively and is expecting this World Competition to be his farewell exit.

“I think I’ve done everything I want to do in baton from competing to coaching, and in the last two years I realized there’s not much more for me to do,” Yetts said. “I know I’ll stay close with these guys forever, and I’m thankful for all that baton has given me.”

Yetts also said that he’s looking forward to having some free time after the World Competition in the Netherlands, but for right now, he’s completely focused on training.

Senior at UNL with a Broadcast Journalism Major